The taste of home

There are so many tastes and smells we associate with the holiday season, and for many, food is one of the best parts of this time of year! If you can’t travel to be with family due to the virus, having those special dishes and snacks (like sufganiyot for Hanukkah) might be even more important. Fortunately, there are many options in Amsterdam for buying ready-made goods and raw ingredients. 

For tips on where to pick up international ingredients, learn more about finding food from home in Amsterdam.

Religious services

Amsterdam is home to many nationalities and faiths, which is reflected in the city’s liberal attitude. Since there are many international residents living here, a variety of services are held regularly in English. For those who are simply keen to experience the spiritual side of the holidays, places like the English Reformed Church and Portuguese Synagogue are spectacular places to visit no matter your beliefs.

Due to the coronavirus, some places of worship are holding services online. The English Reformed Church, for instance, has liturgy sheets available for download, livestreaming events and a YouTube channel full of inspiring videos.

Learn more about church services in English.

Holiday activities in Amsterdam

The holiday season can be a magical time in the city. Christmas in Amsterdam is typically not as retail-centric as it is in North America and the UK, but the streets still bustle with people looking for treats and gifts. Along the Kalverstraat, and other areas with more independent stores – like the ‘9 Streets’ neighbourhood – many places have extended opening hours. There are also Christmas markets in and around the city where you can find items from local producers.

Remember that everything might be different this year, so do a little research before heading out and be sure to wear a mask to keep yourself (and others) safe!

Typically, there are many classical music and ballet productions during December and January, as well as wonderful events at Royal Theatre Carré, along with dinner shows and winter specials. Because of social distancing, many venues will change their plans, but you can check the Cultural Agenda to see what’s happening.

Sending gifts and cards

When you’re sending cards or gifts during the holiday season, your local post office is typically the most accessible point for deliveries and advice. If you are sending cards within the Netherlands, PostNL sells special Christmas stamps, which cost slightly less than regular stamps, and are valid throughout December for all mail that’s 50 grams or less.

With online shopping, you can order gifts through websites like Bol.com and Amazon and have them shipped directly to the recipient. But if you’re intending to create a more personal Christmas package for loved ones, keep in mind that international shipping times are typically longer at this time of year. In general, airmail packages to North America or Asia should be sent before 5 December, while treats heading to other Western European destinations should be mailed by 15 December.

Volunteering

The holiday season can bring out the best in people. Learn more about volunteering opportunities in Amsterdam, including ways to support good causes and help those less fortunate. This year, opportunities might be limited or require that you take extra steps to stay safe. Check out NL Cares for some chances to lend a hand. For example, you can donate to a fund to buy Christmas gifts for others or sign up to help the elderly while wearing a mask.

New traditions

If this is your first holiday season in Amsterdam, there may be some traditions that are very new to you, such as the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas, the prominence of pepernoten (spiced mini cookies) in supermarkets and the sight of oliebollen (an old-fashioned doughnut) stalls throughout the city. Learning about these new traditions first-hand, especially from Dutch friends and neighbours, is likely to create long-lasting memories of the winter holidays in Amsterdam. It can also be fun to share local traditions with your friends and family in other countries.

Find more inspiration for celebrating the holiday season in Amsterdam.